Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

disparagingly of the character of the Duke of Cambridge. He has been so long isolated in Hanover, that the people of this country have nearly forgotten him; but as he holds the rank of Field Marshal in the English army, we are naturally led to inquire into the extent of his services by which he has rendered himself worthy of so distinguished a rank. History, however, is totally silent on that subject, and, therefore, we take it for granted, that no such services exist.

The late Duke of Gloucester was also a soldier, he was, however, a good and honest man, and, therefore, we will throw a veil over his defects as a soldier.

We have thus entered into a kind of crowquis of the advantages which this country has derived from the admission of the sons of George III., into the military profession; it was one way of adding to their incomes, and investing them with a certain degree of patronage, which was sometimes employed for the basest and vilest purposes, and we have only to advert to the manner in which the Duke of York abused his patronage, during his connexion with Mrs. Clarke, to establish the verity of our statement.

It is, however, to the entrance of Prince William into the navy, that we have now principally to direct our attention, and we can state, contrary to the generally received opinion, that the navy was not the choice of the royal youth, but that it was in a great degree forced upon him by his father. He frequently expressed his dissent to the designs which his father had in view; and he expostulated with his mother as to the hardship of his being sent away from home, and all the pleasures of such a splendid home, to be cooped up in a ship, when his brothers were allowed to remain at home in the full enjoyment of their youthful amusements, and with the prospect of a life of continued pleasure opening upon them. The character of George III., was mulish, and obstinate to the very last degree, and if like Don Quixote, he had once made up his mind to believe that a windmill was a giant, it was in vain to attempt to drive the crotchet out of his head. The Queen was by no means ignorant of this trait in his character, and she has often experienced the effect of his hasty temper in endeavouring to dissuade him from any object on which he had fixed his mind, and from the execution of which she could not augur any good. He was, morally and politically considered, an ass, that will have a way of its own, and the more you attempt co drive it into the proper path, the more determined it appears to persevere in the wrong one. In the visions of George III., he saw his son William on the quarter-deck of his ship, the noblest station under Heaven that a man can fill, and he saw his name enrolled in the list of those heroes, who are England's glory, and England's pride, and which will be pronounced with a patriot's enthusiasm, when such emmets as your Miguels, or your Carloses, or your Kings of Hanover, are smothered in their native dust.

The feelings of the mother were called into action, as the time approached, when her domestic circle was to be deprived of one of its ornaments, for although she was no stranger to ambition, and would gladly have seen it ruling the actions of her children; yet, she could not eradicate the opinion from her mind, that the interests of her son, in regard to his mental attainments, had been sacrificed to the visionary glory of a professional life, and one too, which was attended with so much danger and hardship. It must also be taken into consideration, that Prince William entered the British navy, at one, perhaps, of the most inauspicious periods of our history; and it may not be irrelevant in this place to show the state of the British navy at that time, involved as we were in a disastrous and unnatural war in the principal scenes of which, it was the fate of Prince William to bear a conspicuous part.

The American war, had now continued for nearly three years, marked by various successes, and defeats ; and in the months of July 1778, Lord Howe after landing the troops under Sir Henry Clinton at New York, received intelligence by his cruisers, that Count D'Estaign, who had sailed from Toulon in April, was arrived on the coast of Virginia, and ou the 11th of July, he appeared off Sandy Hook, with twelve sail of the line, and three large frigates, to which Lord Howe could oppose only eleven ships of inferior magnitude, and weight of metal, with some frigates and sloops. These being ranged with great skill in the harbour, the Count after remaining at anchor for eleven days, set sail to the southward or far as the mouth of the Delaware, and then changed his course for Rhode Island, in order to co-operate with General Sullivan in the enterprise against Newport. The approach of the French fleet to this harbour, created the unpleasant necessity of burning the Orpheus, Lark, Juno, and Cerberus frigates, and of sinking the Flora, and Falcon. But this was the only loss resulting from so formidable an invasion.

The dispersion of the fleets occasioned the accidental meeting of single ships, and produced various engagements, which terminated greatly to the honour of British valour, and seamanship. In the evening of the 13th of August, Captain Dawson in the Renown of 50 guns, fell in with the Languedoc of 84 guns, D'Estaing's own ship, which had lost her rudder and masts, and had the prospect of effecting so extraordinary a capture, when the appearance of several other ships of the squadron, compelled him to desist. Commodore Hothan in the Preston of 50 guns, fought the Tonnant of 80, the same evening, with some success; but the most brilliant of these contests occurred in the afternoon of the 16th, when the Isis a ship also of 50 guns, commanded by Captain Rayner, was chased by the Cæsar, a French ship of 74, in no way injured by the storm, and after a desperate conflict, which lasted for an hour and a half, the Cæsar sheered off. The Isis had sustained so much damage in her masts, sails, and rigging, that she was incapable of pursuing, but in other respects, she had been but very little injured ; only one man was killed, and fifteen wounded; the French ship was so much damaged in her hull, that she was forced to bear away for Boston, and her killed and wounded amounted to fifty, including in the latter, her captain, the celebrated Bougainville, whose arm was shot off in the action. Lord Howe followed his antagonist to Boston,

in the hope of a favourable opportunity of attack, but found the French fleet lying in Nantasket Roads, so well defended by forts and batteries, that he judged it impracticable, and returned to New York, about the middle of September. During his absence, about six more ships of Admiral Byron's squadron had arrived in that port, and as the British naval force was now unquestionably superior to the fleet under D'Estaign, his lordship thought this a proper moment for availing himself of the leave he had before obtained to retire from the American station, on account of his health, and resigning the command of the fleet to Admiral Gambier, took his departure for England.

The projects of D'Estaign being disconcerted in America, he set sail for the West Indies on the 3d of November, to second the operations of the Marquess de Bouille, governor of Martinico, who had already captured the island of Dominique. Eight days after the departure of D'Estaign, Admiral Byron arrived with his fleet. All his proceedings had hitherto been marred by the opposition of the elements. In the voyage from England, whence he had been despatched after the Toulon fleet, his ships were separated in a storm, and many of them reached New York in so shattered a state, that they were not in readiness to proceed to sea till the 18th of October. He then went in quest of D’Estaign, but his ill-fortune still pursued him. Scarcely had he reached the bay of Boston, when on the 1st of November, another storm so disabled his fleet, that he was obliged to put back to Rhode Island to refit, which afforded D’Estaign a favourable opportunity of proceeding to the West Indies. So sensible was the French Admiral of the danger of encountering an equality of British naval force, that for six months together, he only ventured twice out of the bay of Fort Royal, and both times hastily returned as soon as Byron's fleet was seen standing towards him. Squadrons were frequently sent to cruise off the mouth of the harbour where the Count lay, and if possible, to provoke him to come out and risk an engagement, but he could not be induced to deviate from his defensive plan.

It may be now necessary to advert to the state of our maritime affairs in Europe. After the delivery of the rescript announcing the treaty between France and the revolted colonies, though war was not formally declared by Great Britain, the most assiduous preparations were made on both sides. At Brest, the utmost vigour of naval equipment seemed to be exerted by the French, while the old device of threatening an invasion, was again resorted to, and large bodies of troops were marched from the interior of the kingdom, to the seacoast bordering on the British Channel. In England also no effort was spared, the militia were called out and embodied, and a British fleet of twenty ships of the line, were cruising in the Channel, before the grand fleet of France was in readiness to come out of Brest harbour.

Admiral Keppel, an officer of distinguished merit and reputation, having been fixed upon to command the Channel fleet, sailed from St. Helen's on the 13th of June, with discretionary powers, as no blow had yet been struck by the enemy, which could bring upon him the direct charge of aggression. At the entrance of the Bay of Biscay on the 17th, the Admiral discovered two French frigates, the Licorne, and the Bellepoule, very intent on taking a survey of his fleet, and on their refusal to obey the signal to bring to, a chase ensued, when the Licorne, after discharging a broadside, struck to the America; the Bellepoule after a warm engagement with the Arethusa, escaped by running on shore, and the Pallas, another French frigate, being discovered reconnoitring, was conducted into the fleet, and detained. From the papers found on board these frigates, Admiral Keppel discovered, that the French fleet in Brest, amounted to thirtytwo sail of the line; he therefore returned to port for a reinforcement. On the 9th of July, he again sailed with twentyfour ships, and was soon afterwards joined by six more. About this time, the French fleet, commanded by Count D'Orvilliers sailed froin Brest, and letters of reprisal grounded on the capture of the Pallas and Licorne, were issued by the court of France. The two fleets came in sight of each other on the

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »